In the skies of Moray, you may catch the roar of a Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft lifting off from RAF Lossiemouth and many’s the hillwalker who’s seen the station’s Typhoon jets racing up the glens on exercises. Perhaps you had your Covid vaccine administered by a forces medic, or used a test facility built and operated by the Army.
In short, Britain’s armed forces have a high profile. Recent visits I have made – to RAF Lossiemouth, troops supporting our vaccine programme, and those on exercises on Salisbury Plain – have impressed on me the huge significance of our forces’ presence in Scotland.
We ask a lot of those who volunteer for our forces and they are among our brightest and best. I am delighted that we back them to the hilt and that Scotland remains pivotal to the defence of the United Kingdom in terms of investment and, crucially, jobs.
We are home to the headquarters of the Royal Navy submarine service, which includes four Vanguard Class submarines. They carry Trident missiles, Britain’s continuous at-sea nuclear deterrent, and are a cornerstone of Nato’s peacekeeping capability.
Scotland also hosts the Navy’s potent nuclear-powered submarines, which carry cruise missiles and can even deploy special forces soldiers close to hostile shores while still underwater.
The Army’s 51st Infantry Brigade and Army HQ Scotland are here, alongside five of the seven battalions of the Royal Regiment of Scotland. We host other regular and reserve Army units and the Third Battalion of the predominantly England-based Rifles are in Edinburgh.
Half of the RAF’s Typhoon force operates out of Lossiemouth, protecting UK and Nato airspace. Lossie’s submarine-hunting Poseidon aircraft – nine are planned – will work closely with Royal Navy colleagues and Nato to secure the waters between Scotland and Iceland. That’s where Russia’s menacing submarines hope to pass unnoticed.
Coming soon to Lossiemouth are E-7 Wedgetail early-warning-and-control surveillance aircraft, making Lossie one of the UK’s most important defence assets.
It all represents billions in high-tech equipment and underpins vast numbers of high-calibre jobs. UK Defence is committed to growing armed forces numbers in Scotland from approximately 10,000 regular personnel and 4,000 reserves today.
Faslane on the Clyde offers ideal tidal conditions for submarines, with easy access to the deep waters that are their hunting grounds. The base is increasing in size as around 1,700 submariners and their families are moved from Devonport. With 6,800 people working there, it is already one of the largest employers in Scotland.
A further 550 extra military personnel and their families will be based at RAF Lossiemouth by 2024, taking the total number of military personnel there to 2,300.
The MoD also employs around 4,000 civilian staff across its sites in Scotland, including at the Army’s Personnel Centre in Glasgow, while UK Defence spent over £2bn with Scottish businesses in 2018/19, supporting 12,400 jobs.
Shipbuilding is a totemic industry and, thanks to the MoD, is thriving in Scotland. BAE Systems on the Clyde has delivered five offshore patrol vessels and work is underway on the first batch of three Type 26 frigates. A total of eight of these will be Clyde-built, maintaining a fine tradition of military shipbuilding on the river.
This commitment is sustaining 4,000 jobs on the Clyde, and throughout the wider UK supply chain. And it has backing to do so well into the 2030s.
On the Forth, Babcock’s Rosyth yard is building five Type 31 frigates for the Royal Navy by 2028 in a £1.25 billion deal. This supports 1,250 highly skilled jobs across the UK and 1,250 roles in the wider supply chain, and lets the Navy prepare for a future in which we may again face challenges far from home waters. We are ensuring that global Britain has a Navy with the reach to support our allies and protect our assets wherever they are.
Such is the complexity of modern defence systems, that Scotland’s skilled civilian workforce is essential to its precision engineering.
The next generation of British submarines will be the state-of-the-art Dreadnought class whose eyes and ears will be equally state-of-the art periscopes built in Govan by Thales UK under a £330m contract.
On land, a £180m contract to deliver cutting-edge threat-detection technology for the British Army’s family of Boxer armoured vehicles will support hundreds of jobs in Scotland. For the RAF, the work of 400 defence electronics workers has been boosted by a new £317m MoD fast-jet radar contract.
Leonardo and BAE Systems plants in Edinburgh (300 jobs) and Dunfermline (100 jobs) pick up two-thirds of the 600 UK jobs that will be supported by the order.
This work will equip Typhoons with next-generation radar to allow pilots to locate and suppress enemy air defences using high-powered jamming, a crucial advantage for aircrews in the high-threat environment that is today's aerial battlespace.
In the modern era, with all its uncertainties, we stand proudly with our allies against tyranny, oppression and aggression.
Our forces are highly skilled and motivated, equipped all the way up to two aircraft carriers – constructed at Rosyth – which means distance is no impediment to our ability to project power and exert influence for good on the global stage.
Scotland’s defence roots are deep. Many are proud to be veterans and if we have not served ourselves, most have relatives, friends or forebears who have answered this country’s call in conflicts ancient and modern.
It is fitting that we continue to support our forces with a deep and abiding commitment – reciprocated with appreciation by our military personnel – and with jobs and investment.
Alister Jack is Conservative MP for for Dumfries and Galloway and Scottish Secretary